We are at the ocean, and the ocean is behaving exactly as it should when you go to visit it. It is brilliant blue and stretching for endless days, with a lace of bright white waving at the edges. The sun shines down and the waves glisten back in a silent call and response.
It is the start of a new year.
Wild things belong outside, and accordingly, my children love being at the beach. The oldest boy has twin interests – construction and destruction, and sand and the castles which grow out of it provide him endless opportunities for both. Before him his the perfect canvas – he can build, he can draw, he can dig, and most importantly, he can stomp, smash, and be as perfectly messy as he wants without his mother careening around the corner to put an end to the rowdy fun. Fun of the loud and dirty variety seems to be both the type most preferred by children as well as the type that mothers’ have the greatest problem with, but the beach allows for a peaceful compromise.
My youngest heads directly for the water. He is dressed in multiple coats, mittens, and a wool hat – it is far too cold for swimming. He marches straight ahead, as fast as little legs will go. His mission is typically in vain, as a watchful relative will quickly scoop him up and return him to dry sand before the waves can wet his boots. If the conditions are right, the ocean will push bubbles towards him, and he will rush to stomp on as many as he can before the water returns for them moments later.
I’m curious what draws him to the water. Perhaps he is convinced if he can only give his parents the slip long enough, he will be able to finally stick his mittens in the water and see what all the fuss is about. Or maybe he is captivated by the same mystery that causes us all to turn and stare at the ocean whenever we see it. The unfathomable grandeur calls him forth.
He is too little to understand the enormity of what is before him, and too young to know that he is not yet old enough to appreciate all it has to offer. He senses challenge, and runs toward it, not away. It is the nature of young children. They see rocks twice their size and climb onto them. They see puddles deeper than their knees and jump into them. One time my husband and I took our children on a walk along the hills behind our house, hoping to take advantage of the long summer evenings. We wandered to the base of a sizable hill that overlooked the city, and jokingly dared our two year old to see how far up it he could go. He set off, head down, hands pumping by his side, resolutely marching even after our own legs burned and breath became shortened by the incline. He made it to the top, sweaty and unawed, unlike his parents in the latter. He stood on a rock and called out below, “I see the land of Helena!” Surprise and a smile only creeped across his face when he saw his parents giggling at his proclamation.
The ocean calls to my little one, who has yet to believe us that he is too little and the water is too cold to sit in it, splash in it, and yes, even to swim in it. He heads toward it anyway.
It is the start of a new year.
May you be too small to know that you are not big enough.